Monday, October 12, 2009

Continued Redskins Mess, Early NFL Season and MLB Playoffs

I write today from a town in which all the sharp objects have been hidden. The Washington Redskins are now 2-3 and in the last four weeks they have played teams that--putting aside two wins over Washington--are a combined 0-17. That's not a typo. The only football team on earth that has played an easier schedule is Penn State. I'm a little surprised they aren't playing each other this coming week but the Redskins are playing a team that might not be as good as Penn State: the 0-5 Kansas City Chiefs.

That's really enough on the Redskins because outside of this area, very few people could care less about a franchise that has been uniformly mediocre since the Dan Snyder's Reign of Error began 10 years ago. One local columnist, my friend Tom Boswell, suggested today that Snyder sell part of the team to Joe Gibbs to get him to come back as team president but that misses the point. Gibbs was a great coach, a mediocre general manager. He was better than Snyder and henchman Vinny Cerrato but my cat would be an improvement on the two of them. There will probably be a lot of whining today about what appeared to be a bad call on a fumbled punt but two points need to be made: The Redskins still had 9:21 left to produce at least a tying field goal after Carolina went ahead 20-17 and you are talking about an offense that scored on drives of 13 yards and one yard and went into the season knowing it was one injury from complete disaster on the offensive line and now has two injuries, an aging running back (who ducked the media yesterday) and a bingo-caller (seriously) dragged out of retirement by Cerrato without consulting his head coach (!!) as a consultant. Honestly, if I was Jim Zorn I'd punch Cerrato right in the nose. He's getting fired anyway so why not?

One more thing on the NFL before moving on to the really good stuff--the baseball. This season is turning into a nightmare for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Rush Limbaugh wants to buy a team. (Guess who is one of the most influential people in the players union? That would be Donovan McNabb) He's got serious labor problems on the horizon. Beyond that, look at how many truly bad teams there are in the league. Now fewer than four teams--Kansas City, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Tennessee--are winless. There are a bunch of truly bad one win teams: Oakland, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland and Carolina not to mention the Redskins. That's nine really lousy teams with the season not close to halfway done.

There are, of course, some good stories, most notably Josh McDaniels who people wanted to run out of Denver before he coached a game, being 5-0 with the immortal Kyle Orton at quarterback. Right behind are the Bengals, who won three games a year ago, sitting at 4-1 the only loss on a fluke play against--you guessed it--the Broncos. The Saints, Giants and Colts haven't come close to losing and the Favre kid in Minnesota has looked pretty good. His Sears commercial is downright funny. Do NOT count out the Patriots. They've played the toughest schedule in football so far.

Okay, let's pause for a moment and give The Presidents Cup all the time it deserves...

That's enough, now the baseball.

Am I the only one shocked that it's already football season in Boston and, well, hockey season in St. Louis? It isn't just remarkable that the Red Sox and Cardinals were swept by the Angels and Dodgers but in each case there was a game with an ending that was hard to believe. I have never met Matt Holladay but I couldn't help but feel awful for him after he apparently lost the ball in the lights on what should have been a game-ending play in game 2 in Los Angeles Thursday. How different would that series have been if the teams had gone back to St. Louis tied 1-1? We'll never know of course and Holladay may not be in St. Louis next year since he's a free agent. If he stays, Cardinals fans, who are as good as it gets in baseball, will embrace him and forgive him. If not...well...can you say Bill Buckner? The difference--besides being in The Division Series not The World Series--is that the Mets had already tied the game when Buckner booted the ball in 1986. If Holladay makes the play Thursday, the game is over.

Just as stunning was the end of the Red Sox season on Sunday in Boston. Two outs, no one on, a two run lead and Jonathan Papelbon pitching. That's a lock. People go on and on (as they should about Mariano Rivera) but Papelbon (over a shorter period) has been just about as reliable as Rivera in postseason. And yet, he just couldn't get the third out and the Angels finally exorcised--at least to some degree--1986. I was about to write that they exorcised the ghost of Donnie Moore but then I remembered that Moore committed suicide a few years after the Dave Henderson home run apparently because he never could get over what happened on that Sunday afternoon in Anaheim.

Now the Angels get the Yankees. No one was surprised the Yankees swept the Twins but it was a lot harder than it looked. For all the talk about the vaunted lineup, the Yankees scored one run in the first eight innings of game two and two runs in the first eight innings of game three. The Twins were a base-running mistake and a horrible umpiring call away from winning on Friday in New York. They made another bad mistake on the bases Sunday--and you hated to see it happen to Nick Punto who was SO terrific down the stretch, especially in the play-in game against the Tigers--or they might have at least tied the game in the eighth. As Ron Gardenhire put it, "we stayed on the field with them."

They did--but the Yankees were better-albeit not by that much. What's more let's not get caught up in his, "A-Rod has put his October ghosts behind him," hype. Not yet he hasn't. Sure, he was great against the Twins but go back to 2004. He was great against the Twins then too before collapsing--along with his team--in the last four games against the Red Sox. Let's see if he can do it against the Angels who have given the Yankees fits for years and have had a similar hold on New York that the Red Sox had on them before the last few days. The Angels and Yankees have met three times in postseason since 2002 and The Angels won all three times. IF A-Rod comes through in this series and IF the Yankees win The World Series then the A-Rod apologists can stop apologizing for him.

The Phillies middle-of-the-night (in the east) win in frigid Colorado would appear to put them in control of that series, especially with Cliff Lee pitching game four. But you can be the folks in Philly will be a tad nervous if the Rockies force a game five with the wildly inconsistent Cole Hamels pitching for Philadelphia. A Dodgers-Phillies rematch would be fun and my guess is it will take more than five games this time. (Of course I'm the guy who liked the Cardinals to come out of The National League so what do I know).

Let us end today with a final tribute to The Metrodome--one of the weirdest, wackiest, loudest places where baseball has ever been played. No doubt it is great for the Twins to get a new ballpark--although my guess is Opening Day on April 10th may be a bit brisk--but for a place that had a relatively short history, the Metrodome certainly had a lot of remarkable moments. And, while the ending may have been sad for the Twins fans, they should revel in the way the last regular season ended--with that wonderful victory lap their team took after beating the Tigers last Tuesday.

And let's remember one last thing: the full name of the building was the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. At the very last that's a far more fitting name for a ballpark--especially in Minnesota--than the corporate name that will be on the new stadium. That, however, is the way of the world these days. "The Hump," as it was often called in its early days, will surely be missed.


Anonymous said...

Its pretty amazing how bad the Redskins play a schedule that doesn't include a team coming into the matchup with a win is pretty amazing. And to lose a 17-2 lead against one of those, one of the worst in Carolina? Unforgivable

No mention of your alma mater getting their first conference road win in 6 or 7 years?

Chauncy said...

Love your blog - daily appointment reading for me. Please comment on the "technology creep" on the TBS MLB playoff telecasts. You know, that little bug at the bottom-right of the screen that attempts/pretends to be the equivalent of shotspot in tennis and the yellow/blue/red line in football. What's up with that? I can't find much explanation on how it is done - or how accurate it really is. It's just presented as defacto exact on TBS. What I do know is it makes the plate umpire look awful - rarely does an at-bat go by without at least one "ball" called a "strike". Can't imagine the umpire's union is happy with this. Thoughts?

Bennettar said...

I enjoyed the baseball summary today - part of me wishes there were more than one division series left, but we will not be short on dead sports air as ESPN begins their 5-days a week college football coverage this week.

As a baseball fan, I fear that the increase of technology will lead the casual observers and playoffs-only watchers to call for instant replay in more ways than are already implemented. I have also noticed that TBS's electronic strike zone frequently disagrees with the home plate umpire. Unfortunately, this year's playoffs have not been short on potentially game-changing missed calls (see Inge's HBP, Mauer's "foul" ball, and Utley's "hit" last night). I am glad Chauncy brought this up and I would love to hear what you have to say about this, John.

JJ said...

Loved the "Hump" reference. As a MN native, the Dome allowed us to avoid 30 below zero football games in January, but we also missed out on the 75 degree baseball games in the summer. As for the President's shallow was it for Tiger to want to play Yang, and does a President's Cup match play victory really make up for gagging down the stretch at the PGA?

Ed said...

I'm a golf nut. I'll get home from work on a Friday in the summer and sit and watch the 2nd round of the John Deere Open in the Quad Cities for 2 hours. And I couldn't bring myself to watch The President's Cup for longer than 5 minutes at a time. Just couldn't bring myself to care. And The Ryder Cup is my 2nd favorite sporting event in the universe.

Here in MN today temps are in the 30s and we've got a couple inches of snow. Outdoor baseball . . . Yeah!!!! The problem is that there are really only about 25 nights (out of 81) a season here where you go to the Dome and say, "I wish we could rip the roof off of this thing." Everyone has gotten so romantic about 'outdoor baseball', they have ignored the real issues we'll be facing the next few years. By 2012, people will be screaming bloody murder from the rooftops because they didn't put a retractable roof on the new stadium.

John, there was a great book written on the 1986 playoffs by Mike Sowell called "One Pitch Away". It does a great job of telling the stories, not just of Buckner, the Sox and the Mets, but also that year's ALCS with Donnie Moore (and the great NLCS that year between the Mets and Astros). It also spends time discussing Donnie Moore's suicide and other problems. It was a little more complicated than failing to recover from giving up that homer (and I know that you know that).

Anonymous said...

What's your beef with the Presidents Cup? Did one of the players turn down an interview request from you and now you've turned it into one of your patented personal vendettas?

Or maybe you wanted to churn out one of your worstsellers about the event but couldn't get your requisite level of cooperation, so now you trash it at every chance you get.

Nice job on that mini-book you wrote on Tiger back at the beginning of his career. Yeah, that one was really on the mark - you must feel like a true idiot with every tournament Tiger wins. And all because he turned down your book idea. What a sad, pathetic little man you are.

Bill said...


Your repeated comments about the Skins, while criticized by fans who find it impossible to do anything but worship at the alter of the Skins without reflection, are so spot on that you need to straddle the Capitol dome holding the largest megaphone that the Chinese presently produce for us.
Keep banging the drum about the terrible Oline is and why that single handedly destroys any chances of success. You've been more right than many commenters who point to second year wideouts or Jason Campbell as the problem. As you have pointed out repeatedly, no one can be good if our linemen are worse than those playing for the local prep high school.